White Sox lefty Dallas Keuchel knows pitching better will allow him to go deeper in games

“I’m a big believer in earning stuff,” Keuchel said.

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Dallas Keuchel pitches against the Yankees on May 14 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Dallas Keuchel pitches against the Yankees on May 14 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Quinn Harris/Getty Images

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After left-hander Dallas Keuchel expressed disappointment about not being given the chance to pitch past the fifth inning in the White Sox’ 3-2 victory Saturday against the Yankees, manager Tony La Russa defended his decision by pointing to Keuchel’s ineffectiveness beyond the fifth. Keuchel had five scoreless innings under his belt, but La Russa called it a team decision.

The two talked it over Sunday, and Keuchel came away from it with this:

“Just kind of got to pitch better,” he said Monday. “I’m feeling more like myself, so hopefully that entails a lot of six-, seven-, eight-inning [outings], maybe mix in a nine.”

Keuchel (5.54 ERA) has had back-to-back good starts. He threw five scoreless in Boston, then allowed two runs in the sixth.

“I’m a big believer in earning stuff,” Keuchel said. “I mean, I like to think that my baseball card says that I’ve earned some stuff, but at the same time, you have to reinvent yourself every five days to be who you want to be. I’m no different.”

Kelly not crisp — yet

Joe Kelly’s three appearances have been bumpy — four walks in his second one and three hits in his last, both against the Yankees — but he takes solace knowing he’s not yet razor-sharp after his delayed ramp-up after missing spring training because of a biceps nerve injury.

“I usually have seven to nine outings during spring training,” Kelly said. “I had three with Triple-A [Charlotte] and three here, so it would be one or two more and ready for the season.”

Kelly said the feel for his pitches is “not playoff-ready. It’s not far off, but it’s not crisp, either.”

“It’s going to come,” he said. “It’s not like I’m going in there and giving up five barrels and homers all over the yard. Soft singles and some unfortunate calls on big counts.

“It’s almost there.”

Vaughn bats last

La Russa, who was known to bat his pitcher eighth when he managed the Cardinals, on why he batted Andrew Vaughn ninth: “The second leadoff hitter is a reality in the American League. He hits right in front of your best hitters. So if you’ve got a guy hitting .250, .275 and .300, a lot of managers, including myself, hit the .300 guy ninth. [Vaughn] isn’t the ninth-best hitter on our team. But it definitely deepens our lineup.”

K.C. fires hitting coach

The Royals fired hitting coach Terry Bradshaw and promoted Alec Zumwalt, looking to shake up one of the worst offenses in the majors. The Royals’ 118 runs through their first 32 games were better only than the Tigers, Orioles and Sox.

“Baseball is constantly shifting, and we have to continue to self-evaluate and make sure we’re giving our players everything they need to be successful at the highest levels,” Royals general manager JJ Picollo said. “Our results so far haven’t matched what we’re capable of, and we all share accountability in that.”

This and that

To make room for right-hander Johnny Cueto on the roster, infielder Danny Mendick was optioned to Charlotte.

† Teams can add a player from the minor leagues for Tuesday’s doubleheader. Right-hander Kyle Crick is with the Sox in Kansas City.

† Cueto took third-base coach Joe McEwing’s No. 47. McEwing is now wearing 99.

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